The lushness of Spring

It’s fair to say the Maitland district has some of the region’s most spectacular
and loved gardens.

Annually in Spring, the Maitland Black and White Committee invites the community, at the grace of the hosts, to visit a handful of gardens and get lost in these lush environments all in the name of raising funds for charity. For more than 30 years, the annual Maitland Garden Ramble has been a highlight on the local social calendar, while also helping to raise thousands of dollars for the Hunter division of Vision Australia. Unfortunately, in 2020 a Ramble was not possible, due to COVID-19 restrictions. In 2021, the Black and White Committee had assembled a beautiful arrangement of gardens, each unique in its style, scale and story. Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine was lucky to get a sneak peak recently at these beautiful locations.

Disappointingly, plans to open the gardens to the community this September have yet again been dashed by COVID-19 regulations. We hope you will nevertheless enjoy this virtual walk through a lovingly curated selection of gardens which are now to open their gates for the 2022 Garden Ramble.
From quaint cottage gardens to acres of formal landscaping, gardens that hero native Australian plants to gardens that continue to expand at the whim of their beloved caretakers, these green oases offer inspiration for gardeners of all proficiency levels.

Where to start?

How about in the oldest garden, The Regents Park – Regent St, Maitland. Owned by Sarina Klages, The Regents Park is a true icon of Maitland. Set in historic Regent Street, the garden spreads over five acres and includes a convict built well, large established trees and a formal walk that is truly breathtaking. The long walk shrouded by lush hedges, boasts cactus in rose bush gardens, hidden citrus and layers of colour and texture side by side.

“I was captivated by the garden from the first time I saw it,” gushed Sarina, “I was so impressed by its structure and themed rooms.” “I hope that my endeavours to further develop the garden rooms while personalising the garden have done its former owners’ efforts justice.” Since purchasing the property, Sarina had to struggle with the worst drought in history, but prioritised the garden’s survival.

“My most recent addition has been the Japanese Garden which I began in March 2020. It was coming together beautifully until it was severely damaged by floodwater during March this year,” said Sarina.
“The focus now is salvaging and rejuvenating the Japanese Garden and adjacent orchard.” Sarina has added more than just the Japanese garden, continuing to add her touch to the established garden beds, and installing more water features in the open spaces. The calming presence of water bubbling echoes throughout the garden as you wander from the formal entrance, to the convict built well at the back of the property.

“My greatest fortune since purchasing The Regents Park is to have made a most dependable, talented and artistic local friend who hides his light under a bushel,” said Sarina. “He understands my ideas and develops them with improvement – including the wrought iron gates at the courtyard entry, the circular swing at the end of the wisteria arbor, the rustic wisteria and standard rose stands and the bridge over the dry stream feature and he also built the deck with wrought iron balustrading and mounted the mirror to attract birds at the end of the garden.

“I hope all visitors and guests enjoy the garden. I am not a horticulturalist. For that I rely upon the experts in their field. But I have a green thumbed mother, sister and a number of friends who have given me plants, cuttings, pieces for the garden and advice. I consider myself the garden labourer which I do wholeheartedly.”

From Regent Street it’s a short drive through lovely Lorn to Kensington Road in Bolwarra, which is home to two of the gardens on our tour. As you walk down the tall Marraya lined gravel driveway, you find yourself in a green oasis, the perfect blend of town and country living. The pretty 1880s cottage known as ‘Illiwa’ (considered an Aboriginal term for setting sun), was originally part of the much larger Bolwarra Estate.

The almost three-acre block stretches down to the Hunter River, which is lined with beautiful old river red gums, casuarinas and large figs that have been standing for more than 100 years. The garden is characterised by many other natives, including flowering gums, kurrajong, native frangipanis, jacaranda, liquid ambers, red and white cedars, all of which attract abundant bird life.

These trees are complemented by more exotic species such as English oak, tibouchinas, magnolias and Japanese maples. “The back gardens are tiered with manicured lawns, bordered by buxus hedges simply designed, but effective in layering the garden,” said proud owners Brett Jenkins and Sherie Coakes.
“Through a David Austin rose covered arbour you move into the back section of the garden, with a beautiful fountain looking to the river beyond through rows of white standard iceberg roses.

“This more formal section is designed in the form of a Celtic cross, with two further rose arbours providing an entry into the more open parklands below.” Over the years, the house and garden have evolved, with the contributions of each previous owner leaving their personal mark on the property. The garden has also been carefully tendered by Jeff Earl, who has worked on the property for more than 20 years.

The changes Brett and Sherie have made since moving into ‘Illiwa’ have created a greater sense of spaciousness and enhanced the flow between the more formal gardens and the open paddock. In Spring they love watching the property bloom, as the many flowering plants spring to life including wisteria, gardenias, lavender, daisies and many bulbs.

Further work is underway at the back of the property to clean and rehabilitate the riverbank which is home to many native birds and reptiles.

Read more in the Spring issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story and photography by Penny Evans